Internal troubles at Punt Road however saw the unthinkable actually happen and in 1977 Tommy left his beloved Tigers to take on the senior coaching position at the old enemy, Collingwood. He was the first ‘outsider’ to coach Collingwood – the only man who’d never played for the club before taking on the coach’s role. But such was his impact at Victoria Park that Magpie fans soon adopted him as “one of them”. They loved his honesty and earnestness, his full-on and disciplined approach to training and the straightforward, aggressive style he engendered in the team on match days. The players took to him as warmly as they had at Punt Road, and the playing group quickly formed a bond with their coach that consistently took them further than natural talent might have deemed likely. These weren’t necessarily the most talented Collingwood teams of all time, but nobody ever doubted their spirit, a spirit fostered largely by Tommy, and which flowed through all levels of the club. Collingwood had been in major trouble both on and off the field in 1976, but Tommy turned things around, reuniting and refocusing the team and galvanising the entire club. This was no mean feat, and Magpie fans have never forgotten the pivotal role he played in the revival not just of their team but also their club.
His record at Collingwood was every bit as impressive as at Richmond except for one thing; in five complete seasons at Victoria Park, Tommy took the Magpies to four grand finals but not one premiership. From last position in 1976 he took them to the grand final in his first year (1977) after which the Pies finished third in 1978 and runners up in the next three years, 1979, 1980 and 1981. With a little luck, he should have snared at least two flags. The only consolation was their 1979 Night Premiership success.
The Collingwood revival ended with Tommy’s abrupt (and many would argue poorly handled) sacking mid season 1982, but his time in charge is still fondly remembered by the Collingwood faithful with whom he remains a much loved and revered figure.
By season 1983 the Hafey family had re-located again, this time to Geelong where as senior coach Tommy made an immediate impression on players and staff alike. His unique people skills were well to the fore as he met every individual and considered their point of view. His marvellous memory for names, willingness to spend time with football people throughout the Geelong district ensured his immediate acceptance at Kardinia Park. Tommy again managed to extract the best out of a playing group generally regarded as deficient in talent when he arrived.
The Cats had finished 9th in 1982 and in Tommy’s first year they finished 9th again. Tommy’s job at Geelong had not been made easier by the removal of the Committee which had appointed him coach by a reform group whose support of the new coach was less enthusiastic. However, in 1984 they missed the final five by percentage only, with the mercurial Mark Jackson heading their goal-kicking with 74 goals. 1985 saw a repeat of the previous year with a 6th placing, this time just one and a half games out of the final five. Gary Ablett headed the goal-kicking with 82 goals.
Twenty years later, in 2004 the Geelong Football Club acknowledged Tommy’s contribution to their club by honouring him with the RJ Hickey Award for services to football.
The Tommy Hafey Club 2020 event program will be announce early in the New Year.